Title C'est La Vie Author Lynn Lorenz
What if Ray was right and he wasn't ready to move on? Wasn't ready to have a relationship with another man? Not if Claude still haunted him. Perhaps it would be best if Sebastian just kept this at a friendship and didn't try for anything more involved. It would be nice to have someone to just go places with, like the zoo, the museum, or shopping on Magazine Street. Someone with shared interests, but he could keep his heart safe. The tram wove its way through the park at a leisurely pace, passing under massive oak trees with arms that dipped down to touch the earth, then soared back up to the sky. Children climbed on some of them; some had lovers taking pictures of each other posed along the branches. Ray still didn't say a word. "Are you all right?" Sebastian touched Ray's knee. "Yes, I am. Just thinking." "A penny for your thoughts." Sebastian hoped Ray would share his feelings with him, so at least he'd know where he stood. "I have been thinking what a fool I am." Sebastian's stomach dropped out from under him. Ray was going to end it before it even started. Despite the fact Sebastian had worried about the same thing, the idea Ray wouldn't think him worth the effort hurt. "A fool?" Sebastian didn't want to hear this, but perhaps it was better to do it now, than later. "For letting Claude's memory come between us and what we might have together." He took Sebastian's hand in his and brought it to his lips to brush a kiss across his knuckles. "Oh." Sebastian's heart did that little defib thing again. "I promise. No more talk about Claude. No more melancholy. When I am with you, I will only feel lucky, think only good thoughts"--he leaned closer--"want to be with only you." "Oh my." Ray leaned in, and Sebastian closed his eyes to wait for the kiss. The tram came to a halt. "Reptile house!" the conductor shouted, and they broke apart. Sebastian sighed. "This is our stop." Ray got out and helped Sebastian down. "You were right." Sebastian gazed at the structures. "They are marvelous. But I have to admit something to you--I hate snakes." "So do I, but I love these buildings and the little treasure just outside the gate, behind them." Sebastian followed Ray to the rear, which was the actual entrance to the buildings. A long, shallow wading pool stood just outside the iron fence. It had the most marvelous bronze sculptures of children. "I love these bronzes. To look at them, to imagine the days when the pool was filled and children splashed..." Ray's eyes softened. "Well, if you like those sculptures, you're going to love the ones in my patio." Sebastian's one-time lover, an artist, had done the bronzes of Sebastian as a youth and they now were the pride of Sebastian's home. Only Lane and Matt knew the truth about the identity of the model. Sebastian slipped his arm in Ray's and tugged. "Come on. I want to see the sea lions." "Ah, when do I get to see your patio?" Ray asked as they strolled along the concrete path. "In due time, love, in due time." Ray halted, and Sebastian stopped. "What?" A large grin bloomed on Ray's face. And in his dark brown eyes, Sebastian could read pleasure and hope. Sebastian laughed, pulled off his hat, and playfully plopped it on Ray's head. "In due time." Chapter 6 "I remember this." Sebastian walked up the low, wide concrete steps to the sea lion enclosure. Built to resemble a Roman temple, large round columns encircled the pool of water where the animals swam. He went to the wrought iron fencing, topped by long curved spikes to keep the animals in and wrapped his hands around the metal posts. As if sea lions could leap over the tall fence. Inside, the sea lions basked on large rocks in the middle of the pool or darted past under the water. "We have lost the ability to build things of beauty just because they are beautiful," Ray said as he stood next to Sebastian. "Who would build such a thing nowadays? A Roman temple to house seals?" Sebastian laughed. "But I'm sure, when it was built, they didn't think it odd." They watched the sleek black animals glide through the water, come to the surface to snatch a lungful of air, then dive down again. "Are you tired?" Ray asked as they walked away. "I could use a break." Sebastian didn't really want to admit it, but a sit-down would be nice. "Perhaps we can find a bench in the shade?" "I know just the place." Ray led him over to a circular fountain with benches placed around it. Overhead, the oak trees formed a canopy to shade them. Sebastian sat, and Ray sat next to him, their legs and shoulders touching. "Am I too close?" Ray asked. "No, not at all." Sebastian smiled at him. Ray put his arm around Sebastian and rested it on the back of the bench, looking to anyone passing by like nothing more than two good friends. "Are you enjoying yourself?" Ray asked, his mouth very close to Sebastian's ear. His warm breath teased along Sebastian's skin. "Very much. This was a wonderful idea." Sebastian rested his hand on his own leg, unsure of placing it on Ray's thigh. Ray pulled off the hat and plopped it in his lap. Then he reached up, took Sebastian's chin and turned his face to him. "May I?" His eyes locked with Sebastian's. Tingling started low in Sebastian's body, nearly drowned out by the butterflies in his belly. Ray was going to kiss him. There could be no doubt Ray wanted to, not with him asking permission. All Sebastian had to do was grant it... "Please," he whispered. In a courtly gesture, Ray brought the hat up to shield their faces from any passersby and pressed his lips to Sebastian's. Sebastian sighed. Ray caught it and sent it back to him. Sebastian's good hand fluttered, for a moment unsure, then he cupped Ray's cheek as he deepened the kiss, his fingers sliding into the man's thick, straight hair. His heart did the defib dance and his groin came to life. Quelle surprise! "Oh my," Sebastian whispered, his lips still barely pressed to Ray's. His body hadn't responded this way is such a long time. It scared him, but excited him, all in the same breath. They moved apart, and Ray let the hat drop to reveal them, leaving Ray smiling and Sebastian catching his breath. Ray took Sebastian's hand in his and just held it as they relaxed, watching people stroll past. They sat, silent and content, until Ray turned to him and asked, "Shall we move on?" Sebastian wanted to stay right where they were, have another kiss or two or three behind his straw hat, hold hands and let the afternoon move on. But the day would have to end sometime, and he wasn't sure he wanted Ray to think he'd been completely swept away by one kiss. Although it was a marvelous, toe-curling, breath-stealing kiss. Sebastian wanted to retain some bit of control and, for now, he didn't want Ray to think he had the upper hand. After his long years of experience dealing with lovers and potential lovers, Sebastian knew he had to play it close to the vest. No matter how much he wanted to take Ray's mouth in a deep kiss, he had to appear nonchalant. And he would, even if it killed him. "Yes, I'd love to see the Louisiana swamp exhibit. Also I'm getting a bit peckish." This time Sebastian stood first, grabbed his hat from Ray's lap, put it back on his head, and start strolling, leaving Ray to catch up. And like a faithful terrier, Ray came to Sebastian's side, slipping his arm through Sebastian's good arm. He smiled and gave Sebastian a sideways glance. "Will there be alligators?" Sebastian asked. "Yes. Very many, as a matter of fact. If we are lucky, we might be able to watch them being fed. I understand they use chickens." Sebastian gasped, his hand to his throat, and halted in his tracks. "Live ones?" The thought of hearing the chickens clucking and squawking as they were tossed to the hungry gators was almost too much for him. "No. Just the carcasses." Ray frowned. "We do not have to watch." "Thank God." He exhaled. "I just don't think I could eat after seeing that." He rubbed his belly. "Then we shall avoid the feeding. We will see the exhibit, have lunch and then catch the tram back to the front of the zoo."